This year, China introduced rules requiring online news outlets to staff editorial personnel trained and approved by the government to ensure that any reports and opinion pieces adhere to the country’s communist party line, as announced by the Cyberspace Administration of China in May. Internet providers must also adhere to these restrictions.


China isn’t the only country notorious for policing speech on the Internet. This year, as reported by Slate, Russia blocked access to websites that promoted anti-government protests. North Korea is a more extreme example – most people aren’t even allowed access to the Internet there.


Meanwhile, in the country that many look to as the embodiment of freedom, the ball got rolling on what some (including myself) would argue is a slippery slope to censorship: ending net neutrality, as proposed by the Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai.


It’s an issue many pundits and bloggers have said Millennials care quite a bit about – and if you took a look at your Twitter and Facebook feeds since Pai made his proposal public on November 21, you can see the evidence of that. My Facebook feed, for example, was flooded with friends urging people to call their elected representatives or sign petitions to support upholding net neutrality rules put in place under the Obama administration. (And, full disclosure, I have signed more than one such petition.) A video by late night TV host John Oliver has also been widely recirculated by those hoping to inform friends about what net neutrality is and why doing away with it is, despite Oliver’s comedic delivery, not a laughing matter.


However, as I have come to discover, little research has been done on this generation’s stance on net neutrality, despite the fact that we were the first generation reared on Internet use.


What is net neutrality? Well, as the name suggests, it is a policy that keeps the Internet as a neutral ground. Net neutrality rules prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking any websites. It prevents them from controlling how fast certain websites load. Without net neutrality, an ISP like Charter or Frontier could charge websites a premium to ensure their content loads faster, thereby influencing what content people are more likely to view or can view, and potentially hurting businesses that don’t have the funding to pay the premium.


In essence, net neutrality prevents ISPs from controlling what information you access online, or how fast you get that information. It requires ISPs to treat all Internet use the same. But Pai wants to undo that by rolling back 2015 net neutrality rules instituted by the organization he now oversees.


The FCC’s press release on the matter is titled, “Chairman Pai Circulates Draft Order to Restore Internet Freedom and Eliminate Heavy-Handed Internet Regulations.” Well, that’s not misleading at all.


Millennials grew up on the Internet. Our coming of age mirrored the evolution of social media networks as they shifted from blog platforms like Xanga and LiveJournal, to the now irrelevant Myspace, to Facebook, to Twitter, and on and on. We grew up with dial-up and now have high-speed Internet in our back pockets. If you ask us a question, chances are we’ll whip out our phones and ask it the same question with a prompt of “Hey Siri” or “Hey Google.”


So it’s shocking to me that a recent poll by Morning Consult, a market research firm, and Politico of about 2,000 voters revealed that only a quarter of people aged 18 to 29 strongly support neutrality, with 17% somewhat supporting it. A combined 23% strongly and somewhat oppose it, while 36% don’t know or have no opinion.


And the survey question posed was very specific as to the impacts of repealing net neutrality: “As you may know, net neutrality is a set of rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which say Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, and Verizon, cannot block, throttle or prioritize certain content on the Internet. Knowing this, do you support or oppose net neutrality?”


Maybe the numbers turned out the way they did because the sample size is, in comparison to the entire population of registered voters, pretty small. Or maybe it reflects an ignorance among the general population somewhat by way of the old adage, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”


A college friend of mine who is a mid-level Google employee and resident of San Francisco said things are a little different up in the Bay Area, where net neutrality is hugely important to Millennials.


Although Google could theoretically benefit from the repeal of net neutrality, the company opposes it, according to my friend, who prefers to remain anonymous. “The general consensus is that removing neutrality protections rewards established, legacy companies at the expense of new startups,” he said.


He noted that, while he personally owns shares of such an established company, if he were to, say, leave and create a start-up, the loss of net neutrality would have a discriminatory impact on him. He noted that, while start-ups aren’t exclusively staffed by Millennials, they make up a sizable percentage of those firms’ employees.


“Losing net neutrality puts [companies] like Google in a taller castle with a bigger moat, and rewards the people who have already made moves at the expense of those who haven’t yet,” my friend said.


Noting that Microsoft once had a virtual corner on Internet browsers with its Internet Explorer, my Google buddy made an apt observation: “Google never would have become a thing if Microsoft could have deprioritized our traffic.”


Imagine that the Politico poll had said the following: “Knowing that ISPs can block the Press-Telegram but not block the Business Journal, or vice versa, and could make one website run slower and one faster based upon which pays more or which they prefer, do you support or oppose net neutrality?”


Insert any other news outlets: CNN versus Fox, for example. Or how about streaming services: Netflix versus Hulu. How about search engines? E-mail service providers? Online retailers?


How would you answer?


Millennials should care about this issue, not just because it affects us as those who are more likely to be starting out in younger companies, like my friend noted. It also challenges the way we have become accustomed to living and communicating: freely, without dictation by private companies or the government.